iBook Author Templates from Jumsoft

Jumsoft, well-known maker of templates for Keynote, Pages and Mail, just released 10 templates for iBooks Author. You can view them here:

jumsoft.com/book-palette/

The templates are available inside an app called Book Palette from Apple’s App Store. It’s only $2.95, so the templates themselves are just 30 cents each. That’s an excellent price. Use just one, and the time you’ve save will be worth the cost. They’re also promising to add more templates in future as free app upgrades. You don’t have to install all ten. You can select the ones you want for installation in iBooks Author and leave the others inside the app.

My main complaint is the same complaint I have with Apple’s templates. Jumsoft’s templates only offer a specific type of highly pictorial, chapter and section-based layout. All chapters began with a two-page, spread followed by a numbered list and the text of the chapter broken into sections. That’s an appropriate format for a lot of textbooks and similar manuals and cookbooks. But it doesn’t work for most books.

Why?

First, because it takes skill, time, and money (for stock photos) to create attractive, two-page chapter spreads. Do it badly, and a well-written novel will look like trash. Good writers are not necessarily good graphic artists. Also, unlike computer manuals or cookbooks, finding the right images for many books is a difficult to impossible task. For a fantasy novel, for instance, you’d need to hire actors and costumes, transporting them to an appropriate locale. Better to just trust to the reader’s imagination.

Second, quite a few books don’t fit into the chapter/section framework that Apple seems intent on forcing on users. I’m working on a book now that’ll have about 60 short, 1200-1800 word chapters. It’s highly experiential, so breaking it up into a formal chapter/section framework wouldn’t work. Yet neither Apple nor Jumsoft offers a simple but attractive text-chapter format–which is after all, the most common format for books.

Third, the existing templates from Apple and Jumsoft force you to fit the single layout that Apple, with its usual control obsession, seems to think everyone should be using simply because it showcases all of an iPad’s features. I don’t give a rip about showcasing iPads. I simply want my books to look appropriate to their subject matter. I want templates that make text look good, not templates that force me to find photos or to rid myself of a lot of image placeholders. And I want a variety of highly text-centrict templates, each aimed at a particular type of book. A Gothic novel shouldn’t look like a 25th-century scifi thriller.

I’ve already contacted Jumsoft about creating a variety of templates appropriate for other sorts of books, so hopefully they’ll add a greater variety of templates in the future. What we need are template that focus on good typography rather than flashy images. What we’ve seen so far reinforces my impression that no one at Apple really ‘gets’ books. For them, words are just filler around pictures, videos and things that bounce and bob around.

That said, if you’re doing textbooks or books that resemble textbooks, Jumsoft’s templates are a good starting place. They certainly seem, to my untutored eye, to look better than those that ship with iBooks Author. And over time this little $3 app is likely to grow, adding a greater variety of layouts.

–Michael W. Perry, Seattle